MANHATTAN, Kan. — It took Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler's best performance of the season, a big game on the ground from Kennedy Brooks and some big plays on defense for the sixth-ranked Sooners to finally beat Kansas State.
Oh, and a couple crucial calls that were overturned in their favor by video reviews.
Rattler finished with 243 yards passing and two touchdowns Saturday, Brooks ran for 91 yards and a score in a big bounce-back game, and the Sooners recovered an onside kick with just over a minute left to wrap up a 37-31 victory that ended a maddening two-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
“You have to find ways to win. We've won in several different ways early in the season,” said Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, whose team is nonetheless 5-0 and 2-0 in the Big 12. “I think that bodes well because this team has some grit in them.”
It was the first road game for the Sooners since announcing they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC, and the perilous footing that left Kansas State and the rest of the league on was reflected in the reception they got.
More than one chant from the student section was R-rated.
Skylar Thompson returned from a knee injury to throw for 320 yards and three scores for the Wildcats (3-2, 0-2). Deuce Vaughn had 51 yards rushing to go with 10 catches for 104 yards and a score, and Malik Knowles returned a kick 93 yards for a touchdown with 1:20 remaining for the final margin.
“We had a chance to win, had a number of opportunities,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “We played for four quarters, played with great passion, and I told the guys, ‘We’re a good team. We just have to believe we're a good team.'”
The Sooners twice had to sweat out video reviews in the second half.
The first came when Kansas State recovered an onside kick in the third quarter, and referee Kevin Hassell went to confirm the ball traveled 10 yards. It did, but the Sooners challenged the play again, contending kicker Ty Zentner had accidentally kicked the ball twice — which he also did. The illegal touching gave Oklahoma the ball.
“By case-book ruling," Big 12 officiating coordinator Greg Burks said, “we corrected the obvious error.”
The second review came after the Wildcats got the ball back trailing 27-17 in the fourth. Landry Weber was ruled to have caught a pass converting fourth down, but the ball had clearly hit the ground and another play was overturned.
Hall scored his second TD on a shovel pass a few minutes later to help Oklahoma put away the game.
“We were prepared for anything and everything,” Hall said, “and we went out there and did our thing.”
Thompson had not played since the second game of the season, when he hurt his knee while trying to block for Vaughn against Southern Illinois. And while Klieman called it “unlikely” that his star would play against the Sooners, it became clear during warmups that it had become quite certain.
With their sixth-year senior under center, the Wildcats moved the ball efficiently for the first time in weeks. And after backup running back Jacardia Wright coughed up the ball to end their first drive, they reached the end zone a few minutes later to take a 7-3 lead — their only one of the game.
The Sooners answered with a 75-yard drive of their own that Hall ended with a short TD run, and the teams swapped field goals heading into halftime, leaving Oklahoma with a 13-10 lead — and each team's punter a little bit bored.
In fact, nobody punted until Oklahoma forced one midway through the third quarter.
By that point, Rattler had already led the Sooners 75 yards for another touchdown; they never even faced third down on the drive. And when the Wildcats did force third down on the next series, Rattler simply hit Drake Stoops for 20 yards for a first down, then connected with Michael Woods on the next play for a 27-10 lead.
Then came the video reviews and a nervy final few minutes before the Sooners could final exhale.
“If we continue to play with that kind of passion and effort, and get better during the off week — and get healed up a bit — we have a good story we can write,” Klieman said.
Oklahoma squeaked through another close game despite allowing three fourth-down conversions, committing 10 penalties for 85 yards and twice putting the ball on the ground; the Sooners recovered both fumbles.
Kansas State got a big lift from Thompson on offense, but the defense struggled again to get off the field. Oklahoma only faced seven third downs, converting four, and was 6 for 6 scoring in the red zone.
Oklahoma heads to Dallas to face Texas in the Red River Shootout next Saturday.
Kansas State gets next week off before playing Iowa State on Oct. 16.